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$20M Project: Equipment Upgrades & Downgrades

Networking equipment gets upgraded to handle concrete and some loudspeakers get swapped out to save money. Home theater is ready to be built out.

Any good athlete or politician is always looking straight ahead, both to what they have to do right now and the next event. Looking back is something you do lying in bed at night. During work hours, taking care of business means forward progress.

We have been reviewing the products for this project for the past two years (hard to believe) and watching every up and down by manufacturers along the way.

No Regrets About Control4 Choice
Control4 has worked through some issues with my dealers telling me all the good and bad at any given moment. The status of the project, as of now, is better than I could have imagined.

Control4 garnered more than a little heat with some fan boys taking offense to my choice for the project. Since then, dealers from all over the country (and world for that matter) have contacted me to say they have added Control4 to their lineup with great success. I didn’t do anything other than catching them on the way up and talking about it.

A commenter on one of the forums called C4 “ankle biters,” but with sales looking to pass $100 million soon, I think they have made “player” status. Control4's new HC-800 controller is really fast and the door station looks very stylish. The cameras now come up on all the touchpanels, more than my client had asked for at the onset of the project. Exceeding expectations is great, but not always possible. I’m sure somewhere else I will disappoint at some level just to keep me in line.

Photos: $20M Home a Work in Progress

Had this project been some techie client looking for every wiz bang function, it might have gone different. My client wanted a certain level of control and we will give him that, and more. Most of my clients are “titans of industry” as opposed to the younger tech-hungry set. I work on very few jobs since my other businesses take up most of my time, but the ones I do work on are very interesting.

Switching Speakers
Loudspeakers is one of the products we decided to change from Totem to Paradigm. It was hard for me since I have made no excuses of my appreciation of Totem speakers. When the manager of the integration company Cinemagic, Terry Kohler, suggested we look at other speakers, I wasn’t very interested. Keeping an open mind and the fact that we could save some money for the client and even upgrade all speakers to 8 inches, I had to look and listen. The speakers were impressive and the savings substantial. So now I’m at the tipping point.

I decided to call Rob Sample, the Western regional rep for Paradigm, and talk about not just the line but how they work with consultants. No, not money, but support. When I call someone it would be nice if they got back to me quickly and didn’t treat me like a nuisance. Rob couldn’t have been nicer and more supportive, answered all my questions and sent anything I asked for.

The client was sure I was slipping in sub-par product and making something on the side. He is, in his own right, a large commercial contractor and always leery of changes. Once he knew who Paradigm and Anthem were, he still had his doubts. Finally asking friends and other contractors he saw what he was being offered and decided to go with Paradigm for all in-ceiling products. Totem speakers are staying in the massive Grand Room and the dedicated theater, but the rest of the project is now Paradigm.

Every project either reinforces or kills a product for me. Totem is still the right choice for our theater and the large Grand Room, but Paradigm is now my speaker of choice for in-wall/in-ceiling. Changing to Paradigm, at retail, saved my client over $4,000, the dealer then upgraded to 8-inch speakers.

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Article Topics

News · Slideshow · Installations · Home Theater · Installation · All topics

About the Author

Mark Sipe, System Designer
Mark has been both a commercial and residential integrator and systems engineer for over 25 years. He works with Builders, Homeowners and Architects to design and support all types of projects around the world. He is also a software developer (SalezToolz) and mad scientist/inventor (Xspot Products) all developed around what he saw as a need for the businesses he works with and supports. He has been a CEA Mark of Excellence judge the last 6 years and CE Pro Best awards Judge.

72 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by John  on  02/07  at  11:21 PM

Wow, based on Mark’s reasoning I’ve had jobs where I saved clients millions of dollars.  After all, based on his spiel, if someone got as proposal for a theater that was 1 mil, and mine was 300K, I saved the client $700,000.  Of course I guess it’s worked in reverse too, since if someone got a quote for 50K and ended up spending 500K, I “cost them 450K”.

Hey Mark, are you ever going to give up on the “use your name” line”  Don’t you think that’s getting a little pathetic at this point?

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/07  at  11:27 PM


You’re a troll, and calling you out will never get old.  Flawed logic is a lot like three day old fish….

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  02/08  at  07:59 AM

What Dan said.

Wow a lot of assumptions that the Totems would have to sound better than Paradigm, and the crack about B&W vs Speakercraft is really out there and shows a high level of ignorance about the R&D efforts of these companies.

Posted by Hagai Feiner / Access Networks  on  02/08  at  11:43 AM

Good morning Mark,

Still waiting for an answer from you re my first Q.

What was your original idea behind the network design you proposed and how/why did it change. I think we can get a little granular here and get to some real conclusions instead of bickering over one brand vs. another.

Now: Why is it that you cannot tell us a certain brand name? Not asking for the actual brand name, just why you cannot tell us?

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  11:52 AM


The network configuration is under review, we are looking at the hardware to decide what it will be, a lot has changed in two years.

So far as the new WAP I have only used it once and while it seems to be working it isn’t enough for an endorsement yet.  Anything I put in print has my name on it and I either stand behind it or have thrown it to the side of the road.

We are bringing in some test units for this project of solid concrete and steel, if it works here it has my blessing, which will probably come back to bite me.

Posted by Hagai Feiner / Access Networks  on  02/08  at  12:28 PM

Thank you Mark. I look forward to a point when you can share this information with us. I would like to see the design process and changes applied and the reasoning for those changes.

I have been watching this project from the beginning and was waiting to see what network design you would come up with.

Based on client expectation, size house and building materials used you will have to be very precise when choosing and applying the network solution for this project. I support transparency, which I believe is the goal behind this entire process. Thus, I would like to see your network design process from start to finish if this is something you are comfortable doing. Thank you again for your efforts.

Posted by Chris  on  02/08  at  12:40 PM


By made domestically I’m assuming you mean made in Canada?  I’m sure that was a major consideration for a U.S. project; you know, to keep all products “domestically made”...except that they aren’t.  Mexico is a bit more domestic to Arizona than Canada, eh?

As for the difference in sound quality; obviously a personal opinion and anyone can read a cut sheet and spout out anti hot spotting technology.  I believe Totem sounds better in an IC/IW model to model comparison.

Still no reply as to the real reason for the change and what model was originally spec’d vs. what is being spec’d now…

Posted by 39CentStamp  on  02/08  at  12:52 PM

Meh… Its really hard to tell the difference with mid to upper end in-wall in-ceiling speakers. I prefer products that are easier to install.

You have just about zero opportunity to place the speakers where they should be. You are slaved to the light cans in terms of placement.

You can use speakers with a back box or use a dynamat backer or insulate the cavity with conventional insulation products. You can use good quality amps and speaker cable. But thats about it.

You can pretend that some formula will work for placement but the reality is you have to just wait and see what happens once the room is done and the furniture is in. Most mid/top end products will do just fine out of the box and others may require some adjustment. I wouldnt lose any sleep over it as long as you have enough of the right speakers in the room.

Foreign vs domestic argument…yawn. Maybe when we begin to tax imports enough to motivate manufacturers to build in the US. Until then its a silly argument. Especially when American manufacturers build their yachts (spend your green backs) in Europe.

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  01:15 PM

No Mark, not a troll, just a guy who sees through your self-promoting BS and points out things you don’t like pointed out.

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  01:52 PM

“So far as the new WAP I have only used it once and while it seems to be working it isn’t enough for an endorsement yet.  Anything I put in print has my name on it and I either stand behind it or have thrown it to the side of the road.”

Is this a joke?  You may want to see someone about your egomania, you aren’t a movie star and you aren’t endorsing products.  How about “we decided to test a router from Bountiful that was recommended to us and so far it’s working well, we’ll report back”.  Oops, there I go “trolling” again by pointing out your nonsense.

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  02:28 PM


Quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…

Stand up and be known makes a difference.

Posted by John  on  02/08  at  02:33 PM

Sorry Mark, I don’t want to “print my name” on anything associated with you.  But as ALWAYS, you avoided the actual issue.  Why can’t you just say “we’re testing model ABC and we’ll report back”?  It’s not a difficult question.

Posted by Chris  on  02/08  at  02:59 PM

I agree with John. If this is supposed to be an informative and learning process for your peers you should have no problem saying “we tried this brand/model, it didn’t work, we then tried this brand/model, it did or didn’t work” and so on.  That lends far more credibility to your cause.

Why the secrecy?  All that does is let us know there are products out there that don’t work…well no shit!  How about saying which products those are?

Are these products being donated in hopes for advertising?

Posted by Mark Sipe  on  02/08  at  03:45 PM

John, for not wanting to be associated with me, you sure are spending some quality time on my blog.  You’re here of your own accord, I’ll respond as I best I can for those who want to listen.  I won’t be told what to do by a troll.
Back to your point.

We just finished up a project last month in Mexico and had spent a few weeks trying to make the Luxul system work, to no avail.  A sub on the job brought this product to me that was being used in all the big hotels locally (concrete and steel).  I had the contractor on that project fly down for the weekend and “fire off” the system.  He checked out the WAP and we are both running it through it’s paces over the next couple months. 

Other dealers contacted me offline and I sent the info.  Don’t like putting it in print until I know a little more about it.
John, Chris, feel free to contact me and we can talk.  Happy to help.

Posted by Chad  on  02/08  at  04:37 PM

I’m pretty sure no one on this board has Mark on their payroll, so it is up to him who he answers to. If you are not satisfied with the content he provides, I’m sure that for a fee he would be happy to carefully document any information you deem lacking. He has his reasons for doing what he does and how.

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